The Wicked Character of Psychosocial Risks: Implications for Regulation

  • Anne Helbo Jespersen Bureau Veritas Denmark, and Center for Industrial Production, Aalborg University
  • Peter Hasle Aalborg University
  • Klaus T. Nielsen Roskilde University
Keywords: Health, working environment & wellbeing, Organization & management

Abstract

Psychosocial risks constitute a significant problem in most workplaces, and they are generally considered more difficult to regulate than many other occupational health and safety risks. This article investigates the challenges of regulating psychosocial risks in the workplace. The difficulties lie in the particular nature of psychosocial risks: their complexity, uncertainty, value, and power divergences. Psychosocial risks therefore resemble ‘wicked problems’, typically characterized by unclear cause-effect relationships and uncertain solutions. We use the ‘wicked problems’ concept to show how workplace regulation, and particularly the enforcement in the form of inspection and audits of certified occupational health and safety management systems, face challenges in assessing psychosocial risks and the strategies used by regulators to overcome these challenges. While regulation has become more effective in several countries, a better understanding of the nature of the challenges is still needed. It is necessary to accept the uncertain nature of psychosocial risks in the search for more efficient regulation. Achieving more effective regulation should involve stakeholders in the workplace who deal with the prerogatives of management, and should help develop the competencies of the inspectors and auditors in the field.

Author Biographies

Anne Helbo Jespersen, Bureau Veritas Denmark, and Center for Industrial Production, Aalborg University
Industrial PhD candidate. email: anne.helbo@dk.bureauveritas.com
Peter Hasle, Aalborg University
Professor, PhD, Center for Industrial Production.
Klaus T. Nielsen, Roskilde University
Associate Professor, PhD, Department of People and Technology
Published
2016-10-01
How to Cite
Jespersen, A., Hasle, P., & Nielsen, K. (2016). The Wicked Character of Psychosocial Risks: Implications for Regulation. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 6(3), 23-42. https://doi.org/10.19154/njwls.v6i3.5526
Section
Articles